I have a friend who has told me, on multiple occasions, that she cannot meditate. Up to this point, I have failed miserably to convince her otherwise. I have used all the best quotes, like the old Zen saying, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day, unless you are too busy, then you should sit for an hour.” What I have failed to do is listen to her. Really listen to her.
She is telling me her mind is busy. She is telling me she can’t sit still that long. She is telling me she’s hopeless. But, here’s what she’s really trying to tell me: She’s scared. She’s afraid. And guess what—she’s not alone. Perhaps it is time for me to put down my inspirational quotes and wellness statistics, and tell my friend the truth: I hate meditation.This morning, I woke up and prepared to meditate, mindfully noticing my holey pajama shorts, wishing a good morning to the wobbly cellulite on my thighs, and my astonishing bedhead. I took a deep breath, settled into a cross-legged, seated position, and prepared for a miniature nervous breakdown. This has been my story for 10. Freaking. Years!
There are mornings when even three minutes of meditation feels impossible. It can be painful. My stomach wretches, my brain spins, my shoulders tighten, my nose itches. Every thought I’ve ever had comes rushing in like a hangry child begging for a snack—whiny, insistent, and totally irrational. I am no Zen master. I am barely a Zen apprentice. I’m more of a Zen scullery maid. Meditation isn’t romantic for me. Not anymore. After all these years, meditation and I have seen the best and worst of one another. Don’t get me wrong—I fell in love with meditation the way most relationships start. I was all in. I loved the idea of it. I loved who I was with it. I put it up on a pedestal and double dog-dared anyone to try and knock it down. But just like any good relationship, it got on my nerves. It asked too many questions. It ate into my sleep schedule. It was insistent and demanding. It pushed me in uncomfortable ways, and made me look a bit too honestly at how I was living my life. It challenged me. So, I decided to hate it.
You totally read that right. I decided to hate meditation. And who could blame me? There are plenty of reasons to throw some shade meditation’s way:
1. It’s so uncomfortable: From crossing my legs (although no one is asking me to sit cross-legged), to having to actually sit with my thoughts and feelings as they come up instead of mindlessly scrolling through Instagram as a technological anesthetic, the physical and mental anguish of having to be just with myself is excruciating. Building up a mental callus takes so much time.
2. It’s a total time-suck. Speaking of time, that’s half an episode of “Queer Eye” that I could be watching. A floor I could be sweeping. An email I could be clearing out of my inbox. Our routines can keep us stuck. Our obsession over time—or more accurately, not having enough time—is maddening. It’s like a mouse running on its wheel, thinking it doesn’t have time for a drink of water. It does. But it has to leave the mania of the wheel first.
3. Change is hard. No one I know likes going to the gym to get buff. My friends don’t plop their butts down on the therapist’s couch brimming with joy about the emotional trauma they’re about to recall. No caterpillar ever did cartwheels as it had to let go of everything it knew to become something unknown. Transformation is not for sissies.
4. Then, there’s the woo-woo factor. A lot of lilty-voiced gurus have tried to convince us that meditation is the way to absolute serenity. I’ve known people who fit that bill. But that’s not me. I’m still in the mud and the muck with meditation. It’s hard to polish the silver when you’re still scrubbing the toilet. Maybe that’s my blue-collar background, but for me, meditation isn’t an ethereal encounter with the Divine, but a chore that keeps me spiritually regular.
So, yes. Some days I hate meditation. Begrudge it. Loathe it. But in that hate, I also see my fear, my uncertainty, my vulnerability. And therein lies the grace, and the honesty, and sometimes—if I’m lucky—the peace.
Go on, hate meditation. Meditation can handle it. It will be there to teach you whether you’re open to the lesson on any particular day or not.
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